“I made a mistake. I said it 14 years ago. I trusted George Bush to keep his word. He said he was not going to go into Iraq. He said he was only using this to unite the United Nations, to insist we get inspectors in to see what Saddam was doing when we got elected.”
— Former vice president Joe Biden
This is Biden’s standard line in explaining his vote to support an invasion of Iraq. But this version of history is disputed by former president George W. Bush.
“I’m sure it’s just an innocent mistake of memory, but that recollection is flat wrong,” Bush spokesman Freddy Ford told the Fact Checker. He included a link to a podcast titled “A Polite Word for Liar.”
“The reason for my saying not two steps now is it strengthens his hand, in my view, to say to all the members of the Security Council: ‘I just want you to know, if you do not give me something strong, I am already authorized, if you fail to do that, to use force against this fellow,’ ” Biden argued on the Senate floor.
The U.N. ordered weapons inspectors back into Iraq, but the administration got impatient with the results, calling for the inspections to end almost as soon as they started. Irritating allies, the administration argued that the inspections could not be allowed to drag on because the U.S. military buildup in the Persian Gulf region had proceeded too far to turn back from war.
Nevertheless, Biden continued to express support for his vote. “I supported the resolution to go to war. I am not opposed to war to remove weapons of mass destruction from Iraq,” he said in a February 2003 speech. “I am not opposed to war to remove Saddam [Hussein] from those weapons if it comes to that.” But he added that Bush was not being straight with the American people about the possible financial and military burden.
In a Washington Post opinion article just before the conflict began, Biden unsuccessfully argued that an invasion should be delayed until the administration obtained a U.N. resolution authorizing an attack. That was the position taken by Senate liberals that Biden had previously dismissed during the debate about the war resolution.
Bush, in his book “Decision Points,” wrote: “Some members of Congress would later claim they were not voting to authorize war but only to continue diplomacy. They must not have read the resolution. Its language was unmistakable: ‘The President is authorized to use the Armed Forces of the United States as he determines to be necessary and appropriate in order to defend the national security of the United States against the continuing threat posed by Iraq; and enforce all relevant United Nations Security Council resolutions regarding Iraq.’ ”